San Francisco 1996

<< Continued from Page 1 - Royal Viking Sun, Gala Tropical Christmas Cruise

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Monday 6th January 1997
San Francisco, California, USA - Disembarkation
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After a choppy passage up from Mexico, it was still dark at 6.30am, when we passed under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and entered the bay, docking at Pier 35 in front of the famous Coit Tower around sunrise.

After 18 nights aboard (one of our longest cruises) it was finally time to disembark.
(left) Arriving at the Pier 35 Cruise Terminal & a first view of the Coit Tower & the Transamerica Pyramid.

This was where Andrew & I had to say goodbye to Dad & John, because after a short sightseeing tour, they were flying home this evening, while Andrew & I had booked a 3-night stop-over at the Crowne Plaza Parc 55 Hotel.
These photos and more from our equally wonderful visit in 2009 can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

Having checked-in, we made our way to the Bus Terminal for the Gray Line City Sightseeing Tour and its first stop was at Twin Peaks, where the weather was perfect and the view truly spectacular!

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(above) Twin Peaks: the Golden Gate Bridge (left), Transamerica Pyramid, Van Ness Avenue & Oakland Bay Bridge (right of centre)

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Andrew at Twin Peaks More from Twin Peaks >>

Our next stop was at the Japanese Tea-Garden in Golden Gate Park (see above), where we had time for a stroll before our next viewpoint at the site of the historic Cliff House & Sutro Baths.

The second Cliff House 1887 Cliff House & the Sutro Baths
Overlooking the Pacific and Seal Rocks, the first Cliff House was built in 1858 but the most famous, an enormous Victorian "palace" survived the 1906 earthquake, only to be destroyed by fire in 1907. Rebuilt in neo-classical style, it was converted into a Roadhouse in 1937 and remained a popular hang-out until it closed in the 1960's.
The Sutro Baths were built by millionaire Adolf Sutro in a cove to the north of the 3rd Cliff House in 1896. The freshwater pool was complemented by 6 saltwater pools fed by the sea at high tide. Connected by a rail line along the coast, the Baths became part of a popular "resort" destination for residents of San Francisco but, closed in the 1960's, they were finally destroyed by fire in 1966.

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The 3rd Cliff House (1896)
& its destruction by fire in 1907
As a Roadhouse
in the 1940's
The New Cliff House
(Restored 2001)
Cliff House & the Sutro Baths today
& the Sutro Baths as they were in 1896

In 1997 however, there wasn't much to see and Cliff House was just a shadow of its illustrious past. But in its basement, the magical sound of the Nickelodeon led us to discover Musée Mécanique.

Wurlitzer B Orchestrion, Musee Mecanique Musée Mécanique at Cliff House (The Penny Arcade Museum)
The brainchild of Ed Zelinsky, his collection of penny arcade amusements and nickelodeons was first exhibited at Playland, Ocean Beach in the 1920's and moved to Cliff House in 1972, maintained by his son, Dan Zelinsky. The collection has more than 300 early 20th century arcade
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games, music boxes, fortune-telling machines, dioramas, peep-shows and player pianos. Many have been restored or rebuilt and all require constant attention. The museum moved to Pier 45, Fisherman's Wharf during the reconstruction of Cliff House in 2002.

The bus then crossed the famous Golden Gate Bridge, to stop at the Visitor Center before making its last stop at another fantastic viewpoint overlooking the Pacific Ocean and this iconic entrance to San Francisco Bay. It's easy to see why this is the most photographed bridge in the World!

Show Picture Full Size The Golden Gate Bridge
Opened in 1937 with a main span of 4,200ft (1,280m) and an overall length of 8,971ft (2,737m) or 1.7 miles, it was the longest in the World until 1964. Its beautiful Art-Deco towers rise 746ft (227.4m).
Down at Pier 41 with the local sea-lions, we had tears in our eyes as Royal Viking Sun left for Hawaii to a familiar farewell salute. Show Picture Full Size Show YouTube video-clip
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Tuesday 7th January 1997
Day 2 in San Francisco, California, USA
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Having already been smitten by this city, we were out on the streets again and eager to sample another of its iconic attractions - the Cable-Car, so-called because its streetcars are attached to and operated by a complex cable-stystem laid in the ground between the tracks.

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The San Francisco Cable-Cars
The first line opened in 1873 and it was so popular that by 1890, 23 such lines were operating all over the city. But in 1892, the
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first electric streetcars heralded the decline of the cable-car & by the 1940's, motor buses were an even cheaper and more adaptable alternative.
However, various pressure-groups in the 1950's helped preserve the last 3 remaining lines and in 1979, a further campaign to raise funds resulted in the rebuilding of that system, which was re-opened in 1982. Today, it's impossible to think of San Fransisco without its historic cable-cars!

From Fisherman's Wharf we took the ferry to Alcatraz Island, for an excellent self-guided "Audio Tour" of the main prison buildings. The first 1850's fort had long been a place of incarceration when the original citadel was torn down in 1912 and replaced with a huge concrete cellhouse.....

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The Cellhouse
built in 1912 to hold up to 600 prisoners
Bernie Coy and
The Battle of Alcatraz (1946)
The Lighthouse
& Warden's House
The Agave Trail
landscaped grounds

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But it was not until 1934 that Alcatraz became a maximum security federal penitentiary, housing such criminals as Al Capone, "Machine-Gun Kelly" and Robert Stroud, the famous "Birdman of Alcatraz". Eventually closed in 1963, few ever escaped "The Rock" but one famous unsuccessful attempt in 1946, known as "The Battle of Alcatraz", was led by a Bernie Coy - who may or may not have been related to our John but we'll never know - he was shot!
(left) The view of the city from the steps of the prison exercise yard

Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Phantom of the Opera opened in London's West End in 1986 and in the last 10 years had been taking the World by storm but we had never seen it. However, the US Production starring Franc D'Ambrosio and Lisa Vroman had been showing in San Francisco since 1993 and we were able to get tickets for $56 each (33). Sadly, our seats were far from the best and we had an understudy (Joseph Dellger) for the Phantom. Nevertheless, I loved the show, although Andrew said he would not put it on his list of favourites! Show Picture Full Size

Wednesday 8th & Thursday 9th January 1997
Days 3 & 4 in San Francisco, California, USA
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Over the next couple of days, we were blessed with more excellent weather, so we packed them with more sightseeing, starting with the waterfront area of Fisherman's Wharf, with its period-style amusements on Pier 39 and seafood stalls selling delicious Clam Chowder in a bread-loaf bowl, which they would keep refilling until you had had enough! And it was from Pier 39 that I took a fabulous seaplane "flightseeing" trip around the bay. It set me back $89 but was well worth it!

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WWII Submarine SS 383
USS Pampanito
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Seaplane "flightseeing" trip around San Fransisco Bay
Alcatraz Island, Sausalito and the hilltop mansions, Golden Gate National Park,
the Pacific Coast and over the Golden Gate Bridge!

San Francisco Maritime National Park
Along this waterfront were a number of historic ships open to the public. We toured a World War II submarine, USS Pampanito (see above), brought here in 1982. Cramped & claustrophobic inside, it was still seaworthy and had recently featured in the 1996 comedy film, "Down, Periscope!"

Focal-point of the Park is the Maritime Museum Building. Built in 1937 as a public bathhouse, it was designed in the "Streamlined Moderne" style, an off-shoot of Art Deco. An integral part of an aquatic bathing park, the building resembles an ocean liner and incorporates some fabulous Art Deco decoration and murals, today sadly tired and requiring some refurbishment. Show Picture Full Size

Show Picture Full Size The Aquatic Park Bathhouse refurbishment 2006-2010
When we returned to San Franscisco in 2009, although work was still being carried out, the building had just re-opened to the public and we were able to see its beautifully restored features, including exterior decoration by Sargent Johnson and interior frescoed murals by Hilaire Hiler, originally designed in 1937.

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Exterior Decoration by Sargent Johnson Nautical-style
Stainless Steel Doors
Interior Murals by
Hilaire Hiler
The Lido

Show Picture Full Size The Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill
Built in 1933 on the bluff overlooking the Emabarcadero, this 210ft Art Deco tower resembles a fire-hose and was the legacy of Lillie Hitchcock Coit (1843-1929), a flamboyant woman with a lifelong passion for firefighting. So much so that she was mascot for the Knickerbocker Hose Company No.5 from 1863, rarely missing a blaze. In her will, she left

$125,000 "for the purpose of adding beauty to the city I have always loved". Designed by architect Howard Blake, the view from the top is breathtaking.
(right) View from the top of the Coit Tower towards Russian Hill and the Golden Gate Bridge
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Exploring the Russian Hill district, another of the supposed "7 hills of San Francisco", one infamous section of Lombard Street is often called "the crookedest street in the World" because its 40deg incline is marked by 9 hairpin bends (or a lot of steps!) over a distance of just one city block.

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Lombard Street
"Crookedest Street in the World"
Russian Hill San Francisco Haze!
View from Vallejo Street on the edge of Nob Hill

Between Russian Hill and Nob Hill, at the precipitous break in Vallejo Street, there was another splendid view across the city; or at least it would have been, were it not for a January haze.

But all things considered, the weather for our visit had made a perfect introduction to this beautiful city. Sadly though, it was time to go home.

These photos and more from our equally wonderful visit in 2009 can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 5,787 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 58,385 n miles

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